Feb 5, 2008

Flames hockey splits with ACHA powerhouse Oklahoma

by William Armstrong
The Liberty Flames men’s hockey team, fresh off of back-to-back wins against the Eagles from Robert-Morris College, split this weekend’s games against the Sooners at Oklahoma University. They won Friday night by a score of 3-2 but dropped Saturday’s contest 6-2. After 20 minutes of play on Friday night, the Flames found themselves down by two due to a slow start. However, they came out energized in the second and third, scoring three unanswered goals to seal the win. “The team did great after the first period,” said senior goaltender Mike Binnie. “We sat down during the first intermission and said, “O.K. boys, let’s just put it behind us and move on.” They did just that as the second period was the exact mirror opposite of the first. Junior Pete Masterton got the scoring started for the Flames when a play by the Oklahoma defense put the puck on his stick. With a quick release, the Flames pulled within one. A few minutes later, sophomore Ryan Hoefler tied the game when his shot from the hash marks found its way over the shoulder of the Sooners goaltender. The Flames came out in the third period carrying all the momentum and stopped an early powerplay, keeping the score tied. Junior John Langabeer was called for a penalty a few minutes later, but after another successful penalty kill, freshman Eric Reynolds sent a pass to Langabeer as he was leaving the penalty box to send him in on a breakaway, scoring the game winner. “It was good for the team to pick up a comeback win after starting off slow in the game. We just fought back as a team,” Langabeer said. “It’s a tremendous boost for us. We had a rough weekend at Davenport, but we know we can play and contend with any of the teams in the league. We know we are a good team, and it is just a matter of us playing 60 minutes every night,” Binnie said. The Flames continued to struggle on the powerplay, however, as they were held off the score sheet when they had the man advantage. Even when the Sooners were in the penalty box, Binnie had to make a few big saves to keep the Flames in the game. As bad as the powerplay was, though, the penalty kill was just as good. The Sooners were also held without a goal when the Flames were down a man. “I think that we gave up a few too many odd man rushes on the powerplay, and that’s something that we want to stick away from,” said Head Coach Kirk Handy. “The second and third period, we played a great game.” Saturday night, the Flames started off just as hot when team captain Zac Bauman put his team up by a goal early in the first period. Oklahoma answered quickly, though, as they scored five unanswered goals, two of which were on the powerplay. Even though sophomore Dave Semenyna scored to pull Liberty within three, it did not provide much relief as the Sooners scored once more to send the Flames home with a loss. “We had a really good first period but had a rough second. We didn’t play too bad in the third, and it could’ve been different. We’ve got to learn to play back-to-back games like that consistently,” said Handy. Bauman agreed, “We’re not putting together 60 minutes in a game right now. We weren’t mentally in it the whole game.” The Flames are already looking ahead to the National ACHA Tournament, and their main focus is on consistency. “If we can come together as a team and give it 100 percent, then that’s all you need to do to win it, and we have the team to do it,” Bauman said. Liberty faces 20th ranked Slippery Rock next at the LaHaye Ice Center on Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the box office. Contact Will Luper at wluper@liberty.edu.
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